Finian's Rainbow Will Replace Minsky's at L.A.'s Ahmanson, July 12-Sept. 3

News   Finian's Rainbow Will Replace Minsky's at L.A.'s Ahmanson, July 12-Sept. 3 Los Angeles audiences will see the "Old Devil Moon" rise this summer when a pre-Broadway run of the musical revival, Finian's Rainbow, plays July 12-Sept. 3 at the Ahmanson Theatre.
The company of the 1999 tryout of Finian's Rainbow.
The company of the 1999 tryout of Finian's Rainbow. (Photo by Photo by Harvey Bilt)

Los Angeles audiences will see the "Old Devil Moon" rise this summer when a pre-Broadway run of the musical revival, Finian's Rainbow, plays July 12-Sept. 3 at the Ahmanson Theatre.

The revised revival of the 1947 musical comedy fantasy replaces the previously-announced world premiere of the Susan Birkenhead-Charles Strouse show, The Night They Raided Minsky's. The 1999 death of Minsky's conceiver and director, Mike Ockrent, was an obvious blow to the show.

The Ahmanson's artistic director and producer Gordon Davidson said Ockrent "was the heart and soul behind the new musical. The loss of Mike is a blow, not only for us, but for the theatrical community as well."

The postponement will allow for the Minsky's creative team, including book writer Evan Hunter, to "regroup," Davidson said in a statement. "We hope to reschedule the production in the near future," he said.

Official Ahmanson opening for Finian's Rainbow, directed by Lonny Price, is July 23. Rehearsals for the revised version of the classic 1947 tuner begin June 13. A Broadway start date is expected in October or November. Tickets for the L.A. run go on sale April 23. For more information, call CTG Audience Services at (213) 628-2772 or visit the website at www.TaperAhmanson.com.

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Hess' Finian's Rainbow had a 1999 tryout, directed by Price, at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami and the Palace Theatre in Cleveland. A Broadway theatre could not be secured in time for spring 2000, Hess previously told Playbill On-Line. Because of the spring delay, some performers have committed to other gigs and there will be some recasting, Hess said. Actor Denis O'Hare, who played the leprechaun, Og, in the 1999 tryout, has other plans for the summer.

James Noone has replaced Loren Sherman as the project's scenic designer. Paul Tazewell is costume designer and Kurt Fischer is sound designer. The L.A. presentation is produced by Hess and Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson.

Rehearsals toward the L.A. run will include changes and refinements incorporated by Price and revival book writer Peter Stone. The show has a revised libretto, but retains the tune-rich score by lyricist E.Y. Harburg (who wrote the original book with Fred Saidy) and composer Burton Lane.

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The delay to 2000-2001 may be in Finian's favor: Kiss Me, Kate and The Music Man are expected to be hot competitors in the category of a Best Revival (Musical) Tony this season.

A 1999 rave in The Miami Herald bolstered confidence for the plan to bring back a 1947 show long considered awkwardly shaped but full of gorgeous tunes: "Old Devil Moon," "Look to the Rainbow," "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?"

"We will do another restructuring when we go back into rehearsal," Price previously told Playbill On-Line.

The old devil moon rose over Cleveland Nov. 30-Dec. 12 and over Miami Oct. 12-Nov. 21.

The tuner follows an Irishman and his daughter who flee to America with a stolen crock of gold, swiped from a leprechaun. They seek riches in the USA, but find racism, romance and rousing tunes.

The 1999 cast of the musical, which is part impish fantasy and part social satire, included Brian Murray as Finian, Denis O'Hare as Og the Leprechaun, Austin Pendleton as Senator Rawkins, Kate Jennings Grant as Sharon, Tina Ou as Susan the Silent and J. Robert Spencer as Woody and Don Stephenson as Buzz Collins and Terri White as the big-voiced singer who croons the have nots' lament, "Necessity."

Director Price is artistic director of Musical Theatre Works and, as an actor, a veteran of musicals such as Merrily We Roll Along and Rags.

Marguerite Derricks, who created the swinging dances for "Austin Powers," is choreographer, repeating her duties from 1999.

African-American actor Ossie Davis is the script's cultural adviser. The multicultural musical prominently features a leprechaun whose crock of gold is wished upon to turn a racist senator into a black man. Stone (1776, Woman of the Year, Titanic), who reworked potentially offensive Native American references in the current Annie Get Your Gun, told Playbill On-Line he's making Finian's edgier and more politically sharp. Over the years, he said, the references to racism had grown quaint.

Director Price told Playbill On-Line that the changes made have to do with song order, clarification of scenes and sharpening the political edge.

"When I first read it, as much as there were so many wonderful things in it, the dramaturgy was very bizarre," Price said. "The classic example is [the opening number] "This Time of the Year." It's this song with people chanting, "Woody's coming, Woody's coming" [to save the day] and at the end of the number, they all run off stage, they do another scene, and then they bring him on. It was like doing the 'Hello, Dolly!' number and she doesn't come down the stairs!

"There was a lot of dramaturgical work that we did. The songs are in a different order now, 'Necessity' has a completely new concept, which I think strengthens not only the number, but the whole show. But this great score felt a lot like stage weights because the events of the scenes were before or after the numbers. The numbers weren't very well motivated. We've done an awful lot of work to at least put the score in an order where when the songs come, they are plugged in in such a profound way that they're as joyful as they are on the record, which I didn't feel when I saw other productions of it."

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Finian's Rainbow originally opened on Broadway on Jan. 10, 1947, and ran for 725 performances. It took two Tony Awards (for choreographer Michael Kidd and supporting actor David Wayne). The cast included Ella Logan and Anita Alvarez. A 1968 film version, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, starred Fred Astaire as Finian, Petula Clark as his daughter, Sharon, and Tommy Steele as Og.

The musical mixes Irish lyricism, African-American blues and Broadway show tunes in a story about an Irishman, his daughter and a leprechaun who travel to mythical "Missitucky" and find hopeful sharecroppers, romance and racism.

The socialist sentiments in Harburg's book and lyrics burble up in "Necessity," a lament about not having enough money: "My feet want to dance in the sun/My head wants to rest in the shade/The Lord says, 'Go out and have fun,'/But the landlord says, 'Your rent ain't paid.'"

-- By Kenneth Jones